There has been a substantial increase in the number of middle-aged and older Americans using marijuana.

It seems older Americans are enjoying the benefits of a more liberal view on marijuana as much as anyone.

According to a new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence and cited by Science Direct, more Americans over the age of 50 are taking to smoking pot than ever before. The analysis centered on the data gathered in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which had managed to get responses from more than 17,000 American adults over the age of 50 about their drug use habits. More than 9 percent of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 said that they had used marijuana over the last year, while 3 percent of adults over 65 said that they had consumed marijuana over the same period.

To put the numbers into context, only 7 percent of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 had admitted to using marijuana in the previous survey conducted nearly three years before the current one, while in the same survey, only 1.4 percent of Americans over the age of 65 had admitted to using marijuana. That’s more than double the number of people over 65 taking to smoking pot within a span of just three years, a jump which can be explained by the relaxation in rules regarding the consumption of both medicinal and recreational marijuana in several American states.

As NPR reports, the increase in marijuana consumption among older Americans is directly to do with states relaxing rules regarding marijuana consumption over the last few years. While some older Americans are smoking pot just for recreation, a large chunk of older people said that their doctors had given them the go-ahead because of their medical conditions.

Dr. Joshua Briscoe, a palliative care physician at Duke University School of Medicine, said it was not surprising doctors were suggesting marijuana to older patients, especially as the drug has been seen to be helpful in treating pain, nausea, and spasticity.

“We prescribe substances that are far more dangerous than cannabinoids,” Briscoe said.

However, the study also showed that the same older people who are taking to marijuana are also more likely to turn to other drugs, including alcohol, cocaine, and abuse prescription drugs such as opioids and sedatives.

Dr. Benjamin Han, an assistant professor of internal medicine at New York University School of Medicine and lead author of the study, also cautioned older people who were returning to marijuana having tried it at some stage during their early lives, saying middle-aged and older adults should know that the potency of the same amount of marijuana will be much higher given their advanced age.

“A smaller amount is going to hit you a lot harder when you’re older,” Han said.

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